The Flight of the Pantegana

February 21, 2014 / Events
Venice, Veneto

Hooray hooray! A new tradition is born! …ahem… with a full head of hair, make that a beard too, kicking and screaming into the well laid plans of those organizers who would want a tame and traditional Carnevale di Venezia, and straight into the hearts of Venetians at large.

As a way to reclaim some of the silliness of the Carnevali of old, now that the tradition has become so codified and such a spectacle for others instead of one for themselves, Venetians have taken matters into their own hands.

Yes, it involves a parade of boats (this is Venice after all). And yes, it involves people in costume (although quite a bit goofier than the canonic Venetian masks).


pantegana-venice3Courtesy of Carlo, CC license.

And yes, it also involves a long flight down a tethered line, just like the flight of the angel or Colombina (below) that takes place from the belltower to the palazzo Ducale in Piazza San Marco which is so well attended given its location and “official event” status.

venice-pantegana6Courtesy of Giorgio Bertossi, CC license.

Except in this case it all takes place elsewhere, from Rio Cannareggio to Punta della Dogana, lined with festive food stalls and street music and public performances. And instead of the dainty, frilly, and laced up Colombina, what flies through the air during this new festais …an enormous rat.

pantegana-venice1Courtesy of Carlo, CC license.

Ah yes, the pantegana (water rat), a Venetian reality. While just barely tolerated by Venetians during the rest of the year, this “other most predominant mammal in the lagoon” is instead now fully celebrated on the first Sunday of Carnevale. This new tradition began in 2011, and was shut down in 2012 by the Carnevale organizers which resulted in an uproar of protest, to return to grand acclaim in 2013 and now 2014 too.

As the Venetians are already fond of saying, tongue in cheek, about this new festa, “The Colombina flies in and out of here once a year… the rat, it never leaves us.”

pantegana-venice2Courtesy of Roberto Trm, CC license.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

8 Responses to “The Flight of the Pantegana”

  1. Spano

    You always spark interest and inform us of the craziness of Italy…But where is the food, of which we expect you to comment…

  2. Silvana Schuster

    Grazie for this fun bit of info re the Carnivale di Venezia. But mention of the “pantegana” always reminds me of the time I took my Veneto relatives to Washington DC, and they were highly amused about the name of our military headquarters…the Pentagon!!!

  3. Hmm… My first reaction was “Ick!” rats not being my favorite thing. Then I thought that it is really quite right that the Venetians instead of putting on a show according to organizers take back their Carnevale with whatever is meaningful, rat et al. Thanks for the Note with a different twist.

  4. Next time I go to Carnevale in Venice I’ll be sure to look out for this original? alternative? version!


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